If you asked a reverend about “good” fashion, what would they say?
No, this is not the beginning of a bad joke. In my tired, jet lagged state I’ve recently popped out with several jokes so terrible that they couldn’t even be categorized under ‘dad’. I am not even going to attempt to write one here.
No, this was a question that was posed to Reverend Jennie Hogan who is the Chaplain at Goodenough College, London, and some quite interesting ideas developed from her speech.
In religion, the origin of clothing comes from shame.
Clothing has a practical purpose in terms of warming us or protecting us, but it has never really been that simple.
Her analogy with Adam and Eve was linked to the idea that our bodies aren’t enough. That we need to hide and we need to recreate with clothing. Clothing can hide or highlight our bodies, but it can also hide or highlight our personalities.
If you watch school children in the playground there are endless examples of the rearranged uniform that is trying to be an identification. Altered hems, socks up or down, tie pulled sideways. At my first school I was unhappy and rebelling. I had a too short skirt, socks up, scrappy shoes, ripped jumper and my top button never done up. I moved schools and wanted to simply fit in and be deemed nice. My skirt touched the ground, my tie always straight and shirt always tucked in.
Our role and our life is reflected in what we wear with or without a uniform.
The Reverend’s uniform obviously defines who she is. Her life and her values. When she dresses in casual clothes she projects another side of her.
It seems obvious that the next logical step is to wish to be wearing “good” clothing. This implies that eco and ethical labels should be having no trouble becoming the norm. It should be that everyone naturally wishes to reflect to everyone else that they care about the world and aren’t condoning slave labor, but it seems maybe another psychological aspect may actually dominate.
Because clothing is such a personal thing, it instantly becomes “mine”. How you wear it, what you combine it with.
In a way, you make it what it is by wearing it in a particular way. And in some ways it becomes so “you” that its origins, the maker and the methods, are not something the wearer wishes to consider. To consider these things means acknowledging that the you are simply the consumer of someone else’s creation.
No one wants this. It takes away our natural desire for creative individuality.
But, as philosophers as far back as Aristotle have thought, an “object of desire” comes from a good, or at least an apparent “good”. So, although it may be a slight psychological struggle, maybe ethical clothing will eventually win out.